This little-known rule shapes parking in America. Cities are changing that

New York (CNN) America is stuck with parking spaces.

Roughly 2 billion parking spaces Enough to set up the entire state of Connecticut, across the country. From baseball fields in Los Angeles to malls in Atlanta, parking lots are larger than the buildings around them.

Cities have created more parking through a policy that few know: minimum parking requirements. While cities do not require parking spaces for nearly every office, mall, store, movie theater, bowling alley, restaurant, and other building, those requirements often have a limited number of spaces for each building.

Mandatory parking has at least helped shape the modern makeup of American cities. They become a self-fulfilling prophecy. More parking means bigger parking lots. Large parking lots are buildings isolated from roads and sidewalks, separated from arterial infrastructure by seas of asphalt. Faced with a more compelling vehicle-centric infrastructure, many are choosing to drive instead of walking.

It is estimated that there are three to eight parking spaces for every car in the United States.

Parking requirements have come with other drawbacks, and a growing number of cities and towns — in both Republican and Democratic-led areas — are now reforming their parking rules. The effort to end parking requirements has also received federal support.

In their zoning codes, many cities require new or repurposed real estate projects to include a minimum number of off-street parking spaces, often based on the size of the development or the type of land use.

But now, U.S. Representative Robert Garcia, a Democrat from California, recently introduced a bill that would eliminate parking minimums for new affordable residential, retail, industrial and commercial construction. Separately, he introduced legislation to eliminate parking requirements near public transit.

Affordable housing, environmental and public transportation advocates say parking at a minimum reduces housing supply and raises costs. Developers often bundle parking costs into rent or home prices.

Building a new parking lot in New York City costs about $36,000.

Costs approx $28,000 According to construction engineering firm WGI, a parking lot is to be built. Construction costs are high in New York City, where finding a location is extremely difficult. A new parking lot in the city runs about $36,000, including the cost of purchasing the land.

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Parking ordinances make it impossible for developers and businesses to build the parking they need, and spaces that could hold apartments have been swallowed up by parking ordinances.

Critics say they increase traffic congestion, carbon emissions and make cities less walkable.

They are unequal because everyone pays for them – even those who don’t own or can’t afford a car.

“It hurts the economy because it involves the cost of parking everywhere,” he said Donald Shoup, a professor of urban planning at UCLA and an evangelist of anti-parking ordinances. “It’s a long train of consequences.”

Arbitrary rules

Parking requirements began a century ago.

In the 1920s, New York City, Los Angeles, and other American cities were jammed with cars at curbs. To combat this problem, cities began adding the newly invented parking meters in their densest areas, hoping to keep the volume of cars to those who really needed them and make some money at the same time. They also created off-street parking requirements for new buildings.

Orders accelerated as more people drove, highway development and suburbanization swept the country in the postwar period.

Shoup said minimum parking laws “proliferate faster than any other planning regulation.” “They went from anywhere to everywhere.”

Policymakers, planners and developers have designed cities and suburbs with the goal of providing enough places to park for everyone – even if they don’t drive.

“Planners responded to what people wanted without thinking of the dire long-term consequences,” he said.

The requirements were often arbitrary and enigmatic, said Tony Jordan, co-founder of the Parking Reform Network.

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Some examples Jordan found: Tiny Woodbury, Georgia, population 905, has dozens of specific parking ordinances, including separate ordinances. Heliports and Helistops. (Five spaces per helistop and one per 1,000 square foot heliports.)

SeaTac, Washington, needs a parking space Butterfly and moth rearing facilities For every 150 square feet of office or retail space.

and Dallas needed One parking space for each million gallons of capacity at the wastewater treatment plant, but two parking spaces for the water treatment plant.

“Take a sample of 10 municipalities anywhere in the country and you’ll find similar odds and headlines,” Jordan said.

Cities reverse course

Shoup’s influential 2005 book, “The High Cost of Free Parking,” recommended that cities eliminate off-street parking requirements and charge demand-based prices for curb parking — the lowest price that leaves one or two open spaces each. Ban to alleviate parking shortages — spend meter revenue to improve public services

His thoughts were a moment.

Last year, 11 cities, including Raleigh, Anchorage and Lexington, Kentucky, ended their parking minimums. Parking Reform NetworkA non-profit group that researches and advocates for parking policy changes.

California became the first state to pass legislation ending parking minimums for new developments Close to public transport.

Advocates say parking lots could be converted into affordable housing.

Four cities have completed them so far by 2023, including Richmond, Virginia.

“Parking has at least contributed to urban sprawl, lack of abundant and affordable housing, and dependence on the automobile,” said one. Staff report By Richmond’s Planning Department.

Richmond and other cities allow property owners to decide how much parking to add to their proposed developments, allowing market forces to determine how many parking spaces are needed.

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Some cities including NashvilleParking moves in the exact opposite direction of minimums, creating maximum parking requirements that limit the number of spaces developers can build.

Affordable housing

Cities are looking for ways to reinvent their public spaces after the devastating impact of the pandemic. They also lack affordable housing.

Eliminating minimum parking requirements would help address both challenges. Instead of setting aside the land for parking, developers say it could be converted into small apartments, advocates say.

Buffalo and Seattle, which phased out parking in 2017 and 2012, respectively, said nearly 70% of new homes built after parking reforms would not have been permitted under the previous rules. Research by Sideline InstituteA non-partisan sustainability advocacy group.

In Buffalo, developers created less parking than previously required Made parking convenientNot charging individual users, but adding them to rent or home prices, University at Buffalo researchers found.

Seattle developers created 40% less parking than required before the reforms, resulting in 18,000 fewer parking spaces, the researchers found. Santa Clara University detected.

“These findings highlight the impact policymakers can have by reducing or eliminating off-street parking requirements,” the researchers said.

A better policy, researchers at the Brookings Institution say said A report on parking minimums in 2020 will allow developers and businesses to decide how much off-street parking to build.

The researchers predicted that in areas where parking demand is high, developers will choose to build spaces.

But in places where parking spots are plentiful and affordable housing scarce, they say, “parking minimums are 20th-century relics that deserve to be retired.”

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